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AP poll: Majority harbor prejudice against blacks after Obama was elected President

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By JENNIFER AGIESTA and SONYA ROSS | Associated Press

 

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not.

Those views could cost President Barack Obama votes as he tries for re-election, the survey found, though the effects are mitigated by some Americans’ more favorable views of blacks.

Racial prejudice has increased slightly since 2008 whether those feelings were measured using questions that explicitly asked respondents about racist attitudes, or through an experimental test that measured implicit views toward race without asking questions about that topic directly.

In all, 51 percent of Americans now express explicit anti-black attitudes, compared with 48 percent in a similar 2008 survey. When measured by an implicit racial attitudes test, the number of Americans with anti-black sentiments jumped to 56 percent, up from 49 percent during the last presidential election. In both tests, the share of Americans expressing pro-black attitudes fell.

“As much as we’d hope the impact of race would decline over time … it appears the impact of anti-black sentiment on voting is about the same as it was four years ago,” said Jon Krosnick, a Stanford University professor who worked with AP to develop the survey.

Most Americans expressed anti-Hispanic sentiments, too. In an AP survey done in 2011, 52 percent of non-Hispanic whites expressed anti-Hispanic attitudes. That figure rose to 57 percent in the implicit test. The survey on Hispanics had no past data for comparison.

The AP surveys were conducted with researchers from Stanford University, the University of Michigan and NORC at the University of Chicago.

Experts on race said they were not surprised by the findings.

“We have this false idea that there is uniformity in progress and that things change in one big step. That is not the way history has worked,” said Jelani Cobb, professor of history and director of the Institute for African-American Studies at the University of Connecticut. “When we’ve seen progress, we’ve also seen backlash.”

Obama himself has tread cautiously on the subject of race, but many African-Americans have talked openly about perceived antagonism toward them since Obama took office. As evidence, they point to events involving police brutality or cite bumper stickers, cartoons and protest posters that mock the president as a lion or a monkey, or lynch him in effigy.

“Part of it is growing polarization within American society,” said Fredrick Harris, director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. “The last Democrat in the White House said we had to have a national discussion about race. There’s been total silence around issues of race with this president. But, as you see, whether there is silence, or an elevation of the discussion of race, you still have polarization. It will take more generations, I suspect, before we eliminate these deep feelings.”

Overall, the survey found that by virtue of racial prejudice, Obama could lose 5 percentage points off his share of the popular vote in his Nov. 6 contest against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. However, Obama also stands to benefit from a 3 percentage point gain due to pro-black sentiment, researchers said. Overall, that means an estimated net loss of 2 percentage points due to anti-black attitudes.

The poll finds that racial prejudice is not limited to one group of partisans. Although Republicans were more likely than Democrats to express racial prejudice in the questions measuring explicit racism (79 percent among Republicans compared with 32 percent among Democrats), the implicit test found little difference between the two parties. That test showed a majority of both Democrats and Republicans held anti-black feelings (55 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of Republicans), as did about half of political independents (49 percent).

Obama faced a similar situation in 2008, the survey then found.

The Associated Press developed the surveys to measure sensitive racial views in several ways and repeated those studies several times between 2008 and 2012.

The explicit racism measures asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about black and Hispanic people. In addition, the surveys asked how well respondents thought certain words, such as “friendly,” ”hardworking,” ”violent” and “lazy,” described blacks, whites and Hispanics.

The same respondents were also administered a survey designed to measure implicit racism, in which a photo of a black, Hispanic or white male flashed on the screen before a neutral image of a Chinese character. The respondents were then asked to rate their feelings toward the Chinese character. Previous research has shown that people transfer their feelings about the photo onto the character, allowing researchers to measure racist feelings even if a respondent does not acknowledge them.

Results from those questions were analyzed with poll takers’ ages, partisan beliefs, views on Obama and Romney and other factors, which allowed researchers to predict the likelihood that people would vote for either Obama or Romney. Those models were then used to estimate the net impact of each factor on the candidates’ support.

All the surveys were conducted online. Other research has shown that poll takers are more likely to share unpopular attitudes when they are filling out a survey using a computer rather than speaking with an interviewer. Respondents were randomly selected from a nationally representative panel maintained by GfK Custom Research.

Overall results from each survey have a margin of sampling error of approximately plus or minus 4 percentage points. The most recent poll, measuring anti-black views, was conducted Aug. 30 to Sept. 11.

Andra Gillespie, an Emory University political scientist who studies race-neutrality among black politicians, contrasted the situation to that faced by the first black mayors elected in major U.S. cities, the closest parallel to Obama’s first-black situation. Those mayors, she said, typically won about 20 percent of the white vote in their first races, but when seeking reelection they enjoyed greater white support presumably because “the whites who stayed in the cities … became more comfortable with a black executive.”

“President Obama’s election clearly didn’t change those who appear to be sort of hard-wired folks with racial resentment,” she said.

Negative racial attitudes can manifest in policy, noted Alan Jenkins, an assistant solicitor general during the Clinton administration and now executive director of the Opportunity Agenda think tank.

“That has very real circumstances in the way people are treated by police, the way kids are treated by teachers, the way home seekers are treated by landlords and real estate agents,” Jenkins said.

Hakeem Jeffries, a New York state assemblyman and candidate for a congressional seat being vacated by a fellow black Democrat, called it troubling that more progress on racial attitudes had not been made. Jeffries has fought a New York City police program of “stop and frisk” that has affected mostly blacks and Latinos but which supporters contend is not racially focused.

“I do remain cautiously optimistic that the future of America bends toward the side of increased racial tolerance,” Jeffries said. “We’ve come a long way, but clearly these results demonstrate there’s a long way to go.”

___

AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.

omney: Debates ‘diminished’ Obama

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Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan in Ashland todayBy |

RENO, Nev.Mitt Romney continued to claim momentum in the aftermath of his debates with President Barack Obama, insisting that the forums boosted his campaign but “diminished” his Democratic opponent’s.

“He’s now been reduced to talking about ‘Sesame Street‘ characters and word games and misplaced attacks on me,” Romney told a crowd of roughly 2,500 people here.

The GOP nominee said Obama had “four debates”—including the vice presidential debate—to “lay out” a plan for the future but failed to do so.

“You can boil down what he’s saying to four simple words: ‘more of the same,'” said Romney.

For months, Romney has mocked Obama’s campaign slogan (“Forward”), telling audiences it should have been “forewarned” instead. Today he revised that attack, telling the crowd Obama’s plan “doesn’t feel like forward. It feels like backwards.”

As he has in recent weeks, Romney expressed confidence he’ll win the election, telling the crowd here he understands how to jump-start the struggling economy and “that’s why I’m going to win.”

Yet in a sign of how close the election is, Romney shook up his usual stump speech. He peppered his remarks with examples of voters in their “40s or 50s,” women and younger people who he said would benefit under his presidency.

Speaking in a swing district in a swing state, Romney called the upcoming election a “defining” moment for the country.

“I think the choice you make here in Nevada—and perhaps right here in Reno—will make a difference for the nation, will make a difference for the families of the nation and will make a difference for your family,” Romney said.

It was a theme he hit repeatedly while urging his audience to consider the impact of their vote.

“This election is about your family and families across this country, and the choice we make will have an enormous impact on your family,” Romney said. “I understand what it’s going to take to get this country strong again and to provide the answers that your families need. This is an election about two very different pathways for America.”

Sources claim Trump’s Obama announcement will reveal divorce papers on Barack and Michelle’s dreamy marriage.

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Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

 

Source:  The Daily Mail

 

Donald Trump has been teasing a big Obama announcement for the past few days, and everybody is anxious to see what the big surprise will be. Trump has said that this could blow the top off the election, insisting that it would be very damaging information. Many wondered if this would relate back to all the supposed birth certificate hullaballoo, but Tuesday, Oct. 23 the Daily Mail revealed what this “gigantic” announcement is supposed to be.

 

According to the Daily Mail, Donald Trump’s Obama announcement will reveal that Michelle and Barack Obama once filed divorce papers. The site says, “It is alleged that the eccentric real estate mogul will claim that the documents show the First Lady and the President were at one point in their two decades of marriage seriously considering splitting up.” While Trump has played coy about the announcement in his media appearances this week, a Florida-based investor supposedly has spilled the beans on the big surprise.

 

Douglas Kass, an investor known to CNBC “Squawkbox” viewers, tweeted the big spoiler Tuesday. He posted, “High above the Alps my Gnome has heard that Donald Trump will announce that he has unearthed divorce papers between the Prez and his wife.” This isn’t the first time allegations have been made that divorce papers exist between the Obamas, and the White House has previously dismissed the claim as rubbish.

 

What do you think? Could this be Trump’s “gigantic” Obama announcement? Even if it is true, does it really have the ability to change the course of the election? Whatever it is that Trump has, supposedly it will be revealed Wednesday afternoon.

 

Koch Industries, and other CEOs warn employees of layoffs if Obama is reelected

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English: Seal of the President of the United S...

Koch Industries, the Wichita, Kan.-based company run by the billionaire Koch brothers, sent a voter information packet to 45,000 employees of its Georgia Pacific subsidiary earlier this month.

In it was a letter, dated Oct. 1, from Koch Industries president Dave Robertson implicitly warning that “many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences” of voting for President Obama and other Democrats in the 2012 elections, a list of conservative candidates the company’s political action committee endorses and a pair of editorials: one, by David Koch, supporting Mitt Romney, and the other, by Charles Koch, condemning Obama.

“While we are typically told before each Presidential election that it is important and historic, I believe the upcoming election will determine what kind of America future generations will inherit,” Robertson’s letter–first published by InTheseTimes.com–begins. “If we elect candidates who want to spend hundreds of billions in borrowed money on costly new subsidies for a few favored cronies, put unprecedented regulatory burdens on businesses, prevent or delay important new construction projects, and excessively hinder free trade, then many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors may suffer the consequences, including higher gasoline prices, runaway inflation, and other ills. This is true regardless of what your political affiliation might be.”

Robertson’s letter continued:

(In These Times)

To help you engage in the political process, we have enclosed several items in this packet. For most of you, this includes information about voter registration deadlines and early voting options for your state. At the request of many employees, we have also provided a list of candidates in your state that have been supported by Koch companies or by the KOCHPAC, our employee political action committee.

I want to emphasize two things about these lists. First, and most important, we believe any decision about which candidates to support is — as always — yours and yours alone, based on the factors that are most important to you. Second, we do not support candidates based on their political affiliation. We evaluate them based on who is the most market-based and willing to support economic freedom for the benefit of society as a whole.

If you are concerned about our economy, our future and enhancing the quality of life for all Americans, then I encourage you to consider the principles of your candidates and not just their party affiliation. It is essential that we are all informed and educated voters. Our future depends on it.

It’s not the first time Koch Industries has sent employees political packets. Just before the 2010 midterm elections, Koch sent staffers an urgent mailer that the Nation said was “full of alarmist right-wing propaganda.”

Last week, David Siegel, the founder and CEO of Florida-based Westgate Resorts, sent an email to employees informing them that layoffs are likely if Obama is reelected:

It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

As Gawker noted, Siegel and his wife were the subjects of “The Queen of Versailles,” a recent documentary “about their ongoing quest to build the largest house in America.” And Siegel has often claimed credit for George W. Bush’s victory over Al Gore in the 2000 presidential race. (“I had my managers do a survey on every employee [8,000 total],” Siegel told Bloomberg BusinessWeek. “If they liked Bush, we made them register to vote. But not if they liked Gore.”)

Siegel and the Koch brothers are not alone in issuing anti-Obama missives to employees. According to MSNBC, Arthur Allen, chief executive of ASG Software Solutions, wrote a similar email to his staffers on Sept. 30:

Many of you have been with ASG for over 5, 10, 15, and even 20 years. As you know, together, we have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers. But I can tell you, if the US re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. I am already heavily involved in considering options that make our independence go away, and with that all of our lives would change forever. I believe that a new President and administration would give US citizens and the world the renewed confidence and optimism we all need to get the global economies started again, and give ASG a chance to stay independent. If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don’t want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come.

CEO to Workers: I May Fire You if Obama Wins

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Tax

 

By Robert Frank | CNBC

David Siegel, the owner of Westgate Resorts, sent a surprising email to his employees Monday.

David SiegelIt said that if President Barack Obama wins re-election and raises Siegel’s taxes, he will have to lay off workers and downsize his company – or even shut it down.

“If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company,” he wrote. “Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.”

 

In a version of Romney’s “47 percent” remarks, Siegel added that “people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for.”

The points are ones that have often been made during this election. But what makes the letter surprising is the source.

David Siegel is the man who, together with his wife, Jackie, built the largest new house in America, known as “Versailles.” His story first appeared in my book, “The High-Beta Rich.” It then made it to the big screen with documentary film “The Queen of Versailles.”

They became symbols of outsized spending, debt and real estate in America.

But when the company started buckling under $1 billion in debt during the crisis, the Siegels’ home went into foreclosure and was put up for sale. They cut back on the jet, took the kids out of private school and gave up some of their staff.

So why is David Siegel – a man who defined excess and debt in the 2000s – now saying that debt and spending are ruining the country?

I asked David during a phone interview last night, and he told me that this was about his workers, not himself. He said his own finances have vastly improved. He has paid off all of his major lenders. “I have enough money for the rest of my life and enough to leave a good inheritance for our kids.” He said the loan for Versailles is paid off and he’s resuming construction on the home.

“The elevators are going in and they’re preparing to put in the marble.”

The deal with Versailles’ lenders, he went on, worked out “better than I imagined,” since he was allowed to go nine months without making any interest payments on the loan. Jackie has several offers for a new reality TV show “which we’re in the process of ranking and evaluating,” Siegel said.

He has learned his own painful lesson from the debt crunch. “We cut back, we’re lean and mean. That’s what the rest of the country has to do.”

Siegel said he’s not acting out of self interest, but for the interest of his workers. While Westgate has never been more profitable, the company has 5,000 fewer workers than in 2007.

He said that if Obama is re-elected and imposes Obamacare and higher taxes, he may just have to let more of his remaining 7,000 workers go. He said he might even shut down the company.

“The combination of Obamacare and taxes would be a disaster,” he said.” I would probably just call it a day and that would be a disaster.”

Siegel stressed that he wasn’t out to intimidate his workers into voting for Romney. “I can’t tell anyone to vote,” he said. But he wants to make sure his workers made an informed choice. “I want my employees to be educated on what could happen to their future if the wrong person is elected.”

Below is the full email that Siegel sent to his employees Monday. (Siegel admitted to me that he used a similar email circulating on the web as “the basis” of his own email).

Subject: Message from David Siegel

Date:Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:58:05 -0400 (EDT)

From: [David Siegel]

To: [All employees]

To All My Valued Employees,

As most of you know our company, Westgate Resorts, has continued to succeed in spite of a very dismal economy. There is no question that the economy has changed for the worse and we have not seen any improvement over the past four years. In spite of all of the challenges we have faced, the good news is this: The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.

However, let me share a few facts that might help you decide what is in your best interest.The current administration and members of the press have perpetuated an environment that casts employers against employees. They want you to believe that we live in a class system where the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. They label us the “1%” and imply that we are somehow immune to the challenges that face our country. This could not be further from the truth. Sure, you may have heard about the big home that I’m building. I’m sure many people think that I live a privileged life. However, what you don’t see or hear is the true story behind any success that I have achieved.

I started this company over 42 years ago. At that time, I lived in a very modest home. I converted my garage into an office so I could put forth 100% effort into building a company, which by the way, would eventually employ you. We didn’t eat in fancy restaurants or take expensive vacations because every dollar I made went back into this company. I drove an old used car, and often times, I stayed home on weekends, while my friends went out drinking and partying. In fact, I was married to my business – hard work, discipline, and sacrifice. Meanwhile, many of my friends got regular jobs. They worked 40 hours a week and made a nice income, and they spent every dime they earned. They drove flashy cars and lived in expensive homes and wore fancy designer clothes. My friends refinanced their mortgages and lived a life of luxury. I, however, did not. I put my time, my money, and my life into this business –with a vision that eventually, some day, I too, will be able to afford to buy whatever I wanted. Even to this day, every dime I earn goes back into this company. Over the past four years I have had to stop building my dream house, cut back on all of my expenses, and take my kids out of private schools simply to keep this company strong and to keep you employed.

Just think about this – most of you arrive at work in the morning and leave that afternoon and the rest of your time is yours to do as you please. But not me- there is no “off” button for me. When you leave the office, you are done and you have a weekend all to yourself. I unfortunately do not have that freedom. I eat, live, and breathe this company every minute of the day, every day of the week. There is no rest. There is no weekend. There is no happy hour. I know many of you work hard and do a great job, but I’m the one who has to sign every check, pay every expense, and make sure that this company continues to succeed. Unfortunately, what most people see is the nice house and the lavish lifestyle. What the press certainly does not want you to see, is the true story of the hard work and sacrifices I’ve made.

Now, the economy is falling apart and people like me who made all the right decisions and invested in themselves are being forced to bail out all the people who didn’t. The people that overspent their paychecks suddenly feel entitled to the same luxuries that I earned and sacrificed 42 years of my life for. Yes, business ownership has its benefits, but the price I’ve paid is steep and not without wounds. Unfortunately, the costs of running a business have gotten out of control, and let me tell you why: We are being taxed to death and the government thinks we don’t pay enough. We pay state taxes, federal taxes, property taxes, sales and use taxes, payroll taxes, workers compensation taxes and unemployment taxes. I even have to hire an entire department to manage all these taxes. The question I have is this: Who is really stimulating the economy? Is it the Government that wants to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, or is it people like me who built a company out of his garage and directly employs over 7000 people and hosts over 3 million people per year with a great vacation?

Obviously, our present government believes that taking my money is the right economic stimulus for this country. The fact is, if I deducted 50 percent of your paycheck you’d quit and you wouldn’t work here. I mean, why should you? Who wants to get rewarded only 50 percent of their hard work? Well, that’s what happens to me.

Here is what most people don’t understand and the press and our Government has chosen to ignore – to stimulate the economy you need to stimulate what runs the economy. Instead of raising my taxes and depositing that money into the Washington black-hole, let me spend it on growing the company, hire more employees, and generate substantial economic growth. My employees will enjoy the wealth of that tax cut in the form of promotions and better salaries. But that is not what our current Government wants you to believe. They want you to believe that it somehow makes sense to take more from those who create wealth and give it to those who do not, and somehow our economy will improve. They don’t want you to know that the “1%”, as they like to label us, pay more than 31% of all the taxes in this country. Thomas Jefferson, the author of our great Constitution, once said, “democracy” will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”

Business is at the heart of America and always has been. To restart it, you must stimulate business, not kill it. However, the power brokers in Washington believe redistributing wealth is the essential driver of the American economic engine. Nothing could be further from the truth and this is the type of change they want.

So where am I going with all this? It’s quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.

You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.

Signed, your boss,

David Siegel

Straws in the wind or canaries in the coal mines? Warning signs the Obama campaign shouldn’t ignore

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Maybe it’s because I was told there’d be no math when I got into politics, but there comes a point in every campaign when I run screaming from the torrent of poll numbers and go looking for signs and portents, moments that (rightly or wrongly) seem to me to be of potential significance.

Sometimes they can be found in unexpected defections from the ranks. In 1980, for example, Ronald Reagan won the backing of the onetime leader of Manhattan’s Democrats—“Tammany Hall,” as the New York Democratic political machine was known back in the day—as well as former Sen. Eugene McCarthy. By themselves, they could be dismissed as aberrations (McCarthy was famously contrarian), but to me, they spoke of a shift in the political weather.

In 2008, a surprising number of prominent conservatives—ex-Solicitor General Charles Fried, ex-George W. Bush spokesman Scott McClellan and legal scholar Doug Kmiec—joined ex-Secretary of State Colin Powell in throwing their support behind Barack Obama.

Sometimes these portents are late developments that shift the political landscape, such as when Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh implicated President George H.W. Bush in the Iran-Contra scandal just before Election Day, or when a tape of Osama bin Laden was released just before the 2004 election. In the last few days, several such portents have emerged, and if you’re rooting for the Obama campaign, they will have you reaching for the Maalox.

Consider, for example, the anguished acknowledgment of Buzz Bissinger (author of “Friday Night Lights”) that after a childhood on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where the Republican voting machine levers have rusted from disuse, and after a lifetime of casting Democratic ballots, he is voting for Mitt Romney.

What makes Bissinger’s piece so damaging is that he is not retreating from his Democratic roots, nor even embracing Romney’s policies. Rather, he has concluded that Obama is “burnt-out. … He is no longer the chosen one.”

 

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Or look at the response of the late-night comedians—one of Obama’s securest bases—skewering his debate performance. From David Letterman to Jon Stewart to Bill Maher to the folks on “Saturday Night Live,” they have subjected Obama to something he experienced in the past only from his most zealous foes: ridicule. It is precisely the last thing the Obama campaign needs right now, as it works to gin up excitement among the president’s supporters, especially among the younger voters, for whom 2008 was a time of passionate engagement.

“Come on,” the reply might be. “These are trivial, insignificant items—nothing of real heft.”

So turn instead to one of the more remarkable pronouncements I have seen in recent years from a prominent American journalist: the remarks of CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan.

In a speech last week to Chicago’s Better Government Association, Logan, who was brutalized by a mob in Cairo’s Tahrir Square last year, painted a frightening picture of the terrain in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya—and accused the Obama administration of soft-pedaling the dangers there. On the heels of her “60 Minutes” report a week ago Sunday, her remarks amounted to nothing less than a frontal assault on some basic assumptions of Obama’s foreign policy—an area where he retains a significant advantage over Mitt Romney.

It is almost unimaginable that Bob Schieffer, moderator of the Oct. 22 foreign policy debate, will ignore the blistering words of his colleague, or that he will not raise his network’s report that security in Libya was reduced just before the attacks there that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

What’s significant about these items is that they are not stemming from the president’s ideological or political foes. And they are coming just at the moment when the president’s re-election prospects have been seriously damaged by his own inexplicable debate performance.

Please note what I am not saying. The president is no more doomed to defeat than was Mitt Romney in the days before that debate, when many of his own supporters were hanging crepe. Romney himself still faces serious headwinds. His major foreign policy address Monday was riddled with inconsistencies, and in some cases flat-out repudiations of his past stands. And some of his debate assertions, while confidently presented, leave him open to the charge of dissembling.

It’s just that these unrelated events of the past week call to mind the wisdom of basketball legend Bill Russell, who during his days as a TV analyst would often proclaim: “When things go bad … they go bad.”

Group Warns of Foreign, Fraudulent Donors to Obama Campaign

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Barack Obama presidential campaign, 2008

By

A conservative political watchdog group is raising the prospect of an “illegal-donor loophole” in the nation’s campaign finance system, and suggesting the grassroots-donor-heavy Obama Campaign may stand to benefit.

In a 109-page report published at a new website CampaignFundingRisks.com, the Government Accountability Institute alleges the current online campaign contribution system lacks accountability and transparency, making it highly susceptible to foreign and fraudulent gifts.

The report’s focus is President Obama’s re-election campaign, which has collected historic sums from online fundraising, relying predominantly on donors who give in small-dollar increments.

Obama and Democrats announced last week that they raised $181 million in September – more than any incumbent president has raised for his re-election in a single month.  The funds poured in through more than 1.8 million transactions, 98 percent of which were in increments of $250 or less, officials said.

“Campaigns that aggressively raise money online are soliciting donations from people around the world–whether they intend to or not,” writes GAI president Peter Schweizer and Newsweek reporter Peter J. Boyer in a post on the report at Newsweek/Daily Beast.

The report suggests the Obama campaign is uninhibited in its foreign solicitations, lacks rigorous screening for donors’ citizenship and fails to impose basic e-commerce safeguards, such as requiring donors to provide the Card Verification Value (the security code on the back of a card) to prove a donor is in physical possession of the card.

Under U.S. federal election law, contributions from foreign nationals to presidential campaigns are forbidden.

“People around the world are being asked for donations by the campaigns themselves, simply because they signed up for information on campaign websites,” Schweizer and Boyer write. “The problem: candidate webpages don’t ask visitors from foreign IP addresses to enter a military ID or passport number. Instead, the websites use auto-responder email systems that simply gather up email addresses and automatically spit out solicitations.”

The authors claim the current system is also subject to “robo-donoations”- computer-driven giving to a campaign through various aliases to evade contribution limits and avoid detection. The Federal Election Commission conducts little to no oversight of internet fundraising practices, leaving each campaign to police itself, the report claims.

Schweizer and Boyer present no hard data that show Obama’s 2012 campaign has benefited from widespread foreign or fraudulent donations. They also acknowledge that Republican nominee Mitt Romney could theoretically take advantage of the “loopholes,” as well. The report only purports to illustrate that the possibility for fraud exists.

Conservative blogger Erick Erickson of RedState.com, however, tested out the Obama campaign’s online contribution system and documented the apparent ease with which someone with a foreign mailing address and fraudulent passport number could make a gift via credit card.  Erickson concedes, however, that his contribution was ultimately rejected by his bank.

In a post on its “Truth Team” blog, the Obama campaign called the GAI report and its insinuations politically-motivated, citing a history of right-leaning political activism by authors Schweizer and the Government Accountability Institute.

The blog states that “Obama for America” does not accept contributions from foreign nationals and takes voluntary steps to ensure that the campaign is in compliance with federal election law.  At the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, staff manually review each transaction flagged as potentially fraudulent by their third-party credit card processing service, officials wrote.

The president’s campaign also requires a copy of a valid passport from any apparently eligible contributor with a foreign mailing address or from a contributor making a gift from a foreign IP address, according to the post.  “If they do not offer one in a timely manner, the donation is returned,” the campaign says.

While no campaign can control who visits their websites, OFA is in no way directing solicitations to foreign nationals nor knowingly seeking foreign contributions—that is the legal standard,” the Obama camp says on its blog.

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